Ardeche 2017

Welcome to the Ardeche 2017 Blog page!

And we are off!! I hear the temperatures are warm in France🇫🇷, but ahead of our trip, we are certainly appreciative of the Sun being out and setting us up for a wonderful trip. I have considered writing this in pure emoji... but here you go... I will be updating this page regularly to keep you up to date with the news and updates, right now there's a wonderful buzz onboard, so let's hope for a clear journey down to Dover!🇬🇧

ERF 13:10 17th July 

Update 18th July

We are here! A little later than planned courtesy of the M25. Arrived an hour ago (11am local time). Everyone having a great laugh and getting thoroughly soaked during the Induction. We would like to thank our wonderful drivers. More later after we get back from our venture on the river!! 

The trip on the Ferry was smooth and pupils took advantage about going on the deck, combined with a little dancing and YMCA'ing', not only did we have an enjoyable trip, but enticed some pupils from different schools to join in! We arrived in France at 10:30 local time. Settled into an evening of films and attempted to get some sleep!

ERF 12:03 18th July

What a day! Firstly digging deep into the energy reserves, we arrived, had breakfast and then were promptly asked to leaving everything in rooms, ready for a morning induction. Soaked by PGL staff, the revitalising effect of cold water on a hot summer day, was welcomed by everyone!

More food followed and after being assembled into groups, we had a detailed guide on how to Paddle a boat, ready for collecting our kit and heading to the river. So a mixture of initial successes were made by various pupils, with everyone enjoying the experience of encountering the first rapids. After a mixture of success in steering the boats around various rocks, I think it is safe to say, combined with the beautiful surroundings of the Ardeche gorge, everyone felt very proud of themselves. 

The temperature reached 32 degrees by 5pm and so having paddled hard down a river, into oncoming winds, we were grateful of the opportunity to have a swim and jump from the rocks. Matt Powell has a special mention, overcoming his initial misgivings about leaping off a cliff from about 5 meters, he overcame his understandable fears to jump twice! Well done Matt. He receives star of the day award for overcoming his better judgment!

Back to camp for more food and then 'ents' involving swimming or football, a check in with the teachers who also double as the friendly bank manager, the Disco is about to start. Some are thinking about heading to bed early, as they are exhausted already and looking forward to tomorrow, where we are camping under the stars and further practicing our newly acquired paddling skills.

Unfortunately wifi is somewhat lacking on the gorge and so my further updates will appear when we return to camp on Thursday.

ERF 21:25 18th July

So we have successfully canoed the Ardeche River, about 30KM over 3 days and what an adventure we have had. 

For some, learning to canoe in one straight line has been a battle, but one that has certainly been overcome. It has been a pleasure to see how much everyone has developed both while working in teams and on steering a canoe. So here is our story...

An early rise after a late Disco and an uncomfortably warm night while trying to sleep, there were some pupils who decided to give it a go and some who found the energy to keep going until the early hours of the morning. Nevertheless, a 7am call was answered by pupils who were ready to go and looking forward to an adventure. 

Having packed the night before with one barrel between two paddlers, which held enough room for a sleeping bag and some spare clothes, there was time to eat a hearty breakfast of croissants, fruit, yoghurt and cereal, grab two bottles of water, our kit, dance the 'shake a tail feather' song before heading out to the point where we left off yesterday. 

Once we arrived in the river, it was a quick transition to setting out in our pods, chanting our various songs, and were lead through a range of rapids. Ok, so a few pupils still struggled to stay in a straight line, but by this time were becoming masterful in the art of pointing the boat back in the correct direction. 

Before long a few capsizes meant that pupils were getting a proper workout as the heaved themselves, fully laden with water back into their boat. A particular rapid named the 'can opener', was a particular issue for Maddy M and Harriet A, who managed somehow to wrap their boat around the rock and summarily caused a huge backlog and pileup of boats! We applaud the girls, they recovered well and continued to paddle, mastering the following rapid with ease. But sometimes it was the smallest of rapids that caught us out, with random rocks coming out of nowhere and deceivingly rocking the boat far over, leading to paddlers and belongings floating down the river. Fortunately there is always an instructor on hand to help us back into the boats. 

It came to lunch and yes, more food, we beached, had baguettes and played games in the refreshing, yet pleasantly warm river. 

Games of Sumo wrestling on upturned boats provided an interesting and challenging opportunity to bring most flair about how to throw another pupil off the boat! Another opportunity was provided for pupils try and drag their instructors under the water, which while it took over three pupils per instructor, they were pleased with providing payback for being worked hard while paddling!

After another refreshing swim, we were soon back in our boats and straight onto another rapid. This time is was the teachers turn to capsize, having been quite smug about the number of rapids that had been successfully traversed, an unnamed male member of staff guided his colleague (me 😔) down a part of the rapid that he looked to be quite fun, it turned out the double or triple wave that coursed over the front of the boat, and his colleague, successfully drowning the boat in the process. Of course, as I write, there may have been more eventful issues, not that anyone has recounted them so vividly! 

As we reached then end of our stretch of the river, having taken in more GORGEous views of the Ardeche, helping our colleagues, pupils and instructors and out of their boats, we were looking forward to a well-deserved break on the Bivi site. Finally we reached the bank and brought ourselves onto the bank side, taking ourselves up to the site and then down back onto the river for a last enjoyable swim. 

Then it was to Bivi... and oh boy it was an eventful one.

We initially settled very well, enjoying the bolognaise and pasta, cake, hot chocolate. Also, we were joined by mother school, and so this left there time for a social with the pupils from the other school. Ben W deserves special mention for leading these social conversations! Then we were warned about there being chance of a storm.. but laughed this off due to the weather being sunny and warm. We were certainly put in our place when the rain started, then stopped, then started and continued in this fashion for a while. The tarpauling had been pulled over the pupils so as to guard them from the rain, though not so successfully. Since at about two in the morning, rain started and continued and continued... staff were drenched as a consequence of having no covering initially and pupils were awake because they thought they were actually sleeping in the river .... so this continued throughout the night, with everyone finding it difficult to sleep. 

Eventually it was 6 am and everyone was awake, with the instructors cooking breakfast about 7 am and everyone then packing their wet sleeping bags, clothes into their barrel, and then getting ready to start paddling. Fortunately it has been superb weather all through today and we had the river pretty much to ourselves. The Instructors were very impressed by the speed of the paddling, with everyone clearing the rapids by lunch. Lunch consisted of more games, old rivalries resurfacing and satisfied paddlers now showing more than ever that they have become competent in this sport. After lunch, more games, more swimming, more general fun, we paddled down the hardest bit with speed and closed back to camp by 4pm. As I write this, this evening entertainments are happening, with pupils now dressing up and about to take the catwalk, we have packed already and are looking forward to the Disco, but more to follow on that later! 

Photos to follow shortly.

ERF 20:28 Thursday 20th July

We have arrived at Mimosa!

Apologies for the late update but I have just found the sweet spot on site where the Internet is accessible (during breakfast.) I'm finding it impossible to upload photos but will give it a go here later.

We had a great day yesterday. After leaving site at about 9am we arrived at the water park and spent the next 3 hours on rides. Leaving the water park we arrived on site for 4:30pm and settled in quickly.

As I write this, breakfast has ended and I will update you further about what happened in ''The Cube' and this morning's activities which involved windsurfing and raft building!

More to follow soon... hopefully if I find this sweet spot works again!!

Erf 8:16 22nd July

After arrival, pupils quickly settled into their new accommodation, this time we are staying in tents, which are very warm, but our little village in the campsite is starting to feel like home.

A little downtime offered the chance to find out about the site and then at 6pm we had some dinner and settled into 'ents', which tonight is the PGL version of 'The Cube'.

Having gathered into teams of 5, pupils were pitted against each other, and embarked on 2 challenges... 1 to throw a ball into a cup and the second is to remember a sequence of colours, order those colours and then beat the others by way of points. Sounds simpler than it actually is, the challenge of throwing a ball into a cup that was pretty much the same size as the ball encouraged all to think of creative ways to navigate the rules. Nevertheless strategies were forming and special mention should go to Lucy who devised the best plan of funnelling the ball with her hands. For others, pure skill and numerous 'lives' were forfeited by menthol of 'simplify',  in order to close the gap between cup and ball.

The next challenge, a memory game was particularly challenging and not even teachers were able to memorise the sequence well. Again an opportunity to simplify meant that a colour was removed and special mention goes to Ben G, who used binary methodologies to record the colours using his fingers... for those who are not aware, I teach Computing and am very proud. Ben led the way and others followed.

So the final count... Ben W, Ben G, Jack H, Matt P, Oliver were victorious and did their best to celebrate in their usual understated way.. 😆

At the end of 'ents' it was an opportunity to debrief, with wally and hero of the day.

Today the Heros for cleaning up after dinner of their own free will are Katherine S and Lucy N and Tizzy. Well done and thank you, girls.

A little more down time and then the disco allowed everyone to socialise, dance and play ping pong ball.

I do believe, as reported, special mention need to go to Arron, who, it was reported, spent the whole night busting some moves on the dance floor. For the sheer amount of stamina that he demonstrated and superb knowledge of dance routines, we salute him.

This morning we are currently at the port and pupils are taking advantage of learning to windsurf and raft building. As I write they are failing, succeeding and thoroughly enjoying themselves 😀.

More photos to follow... hopefully!!

Erf 10:35 22nd July

The Internet is proving a little tricky... but I'm back, it's 7:30 am and the sun is shining again.

We had a fun packed day yesterday and the afternoon proved to be a lovely mix of a chill out and an action packed adventure of learning to use the catamarans. With temps reaching 28C, we were all in certain need of the swim in the sea, which is cool enough to cool down but warm enough to stay in for a while!

After we returned, there was just enough time to quickly shower before eating a lovely chicken curry dinner, then some downtime, with Mr Sykes teaching the pupils how to play 'liar dice', and everyone to have a shower and get ready for 'ents'. At this time we were all starting to reflect on this adventurous holiday, with special mention going to the Bivi night, in which we were all able to recall the experiences of being wet, leaking tarpaulings, floors and some interesting sleeping positions to escape the various puddles. Special mention goes to Susannah who proclaimed her ability to stay dry as she found her spot on the mat, in the middle of it all!

At 8pm we were collected by our PGL rep Ellie, for a game of Million Pound Drop. An interesting game in which we were given PGL £s and shown videos on which we needed to bet. Half way through teams started to lose their money and so Ellie found some ways for them to earn it back, including a dance off and Sing off. Special mention goes to Jack RC, who put in some serious breakdancing and was only stopped by the stones on the floor, we were all seriously impressed. Ultimately not one group won as they all bet and lost. Never mind, an evening of dancing, ball games and socialising with others prevailed and it was the end of another busy day. 

At debrief the following was agreed..

Highlights...

Windsurfing

Speaking French to people - Kim, grace,

Low lights

George got hit by a windsurf sail

Several got hit by rugby ball in the sea

Amelia star of the day for helping with cleaning up of several buoyancy aids.

Wally of the day is Mr Scanlon for losing everything he owns.

Erf 07:47 23rd July 

Another fun-packed, adventure filled day and many pupils said this was the best one to-date, because it was as fun boat and banana boating day! Firstly a drinking competition over breakfast, in which Molly E, drank as much as she could and then quickly projectiled water over her friends, across the table. We haven't even started the day and there is a Wally nomination!

We spent all day on the beach and the morning offered a lovely chance to do some yoga, play ball games and swim, while the various teams took their turns to go on the boats. The temperatures reached 31 degrees, which is realitively mild for us, since we have acclimatised to the weather. We cannot believe that tomorrow will be our last day!

After 3 hours on the beach, it was time to return to camp and have yet another delicious lunch, we certainly will miss all the fresh fruit, salads and everything about the food here! 

Returning to the beach in the afternoon, everyone stayed within their teams and went on the banana boats, the instructors did their best to throw everyone off and only a few pupils escaped the depths of the med. However bragging rights go to Matthew who climbed onto the banana boat and summarily capsized everyone else off it! Wally of the day nomination was therefore awarded to him today. 

The day was quickly over, with pupils and staff alike starting to develop nice tans, this evenings 'ents' were the best to date. Robot Wars. The ensewing antics were hilarious to watch, with pupils dressing up in black plastic bags and food crates, then entering the ring, blind folded. The aim was for teams to guide their robot to prepared cups of water and, still blind folded, throw the water over their opponent Robot. The results were hilarious and the game descended into a water fight, perhaps not the overall objective, but we all had a good laugh in the process. Especially Katherine, who should receive special mention for making this her costume for long after the game ended!

Dinner was a good old roast, with chocolate mousse for dessert and then to debrief, in which Mr Scanlon was finally able to pass the Wally hat to Matthew and Aaron was awarded the 'hero of the day' award for clearing up as much as he could all day. A superb effort.

Then it was to the Disco, more withdrawals from the friendly bank managers, who split themselves into different types of bank, the local, the zen, the high and private bank. All those involved would understand, but it involved circles of groups with their respective bank manager teacher.

Activities are about to start again, I will hopefully have time to update this further, because accessing the internet has been pot luck so far... I'm sorry for the lack of photos, but this task has surmounted even my technical capabilities! ☺️ I promise more will be added on our return to school.

It is now Tuesday morning, the wind is unfortunately too high for more banana boating, but packing and onsite games are being organised and so I will return shortly with more updates, hopefully!

ERF 09:10 24th July

This morning's activities include Archery and packing, with the wind being too high and the temperatures being a disappointing 18 degrees at 9am... it's an opportunity to experience something different and while hoodies are needed, (I sit here and shiver), we still have enjoyable non-water based challenge so to complete.

The time is now 12:15 and we have finished this morning's activities, which have included teamwork, tricks and puzzles, on top of clearing tents, which brings for some has been quite a challenge. However, as we look forward to lunch, the wind is whipping up around us and so it is unlikely that we will be able to visit the beach today. 

So, while we wait, here are the expected timings for our journey home, 

We leave Mimosa about 6:30 pm, local time and start the long 22 hour journey through France. Helpfully over the Millau bridge and up through France. We should arrive to Calais about 8:20 and depart at 9:20, meaning when we get back into the UK, the time should be 9:50am local time. From there out, we should arrive at School about 3pm.

So, dear reader, thank you for following my blog, I hope you have enjoyed hearing about our exploits, there will be more photos after I return to School, probably more on Wednesday.

Signing out.... ERF 12:21 24th July

Update: 9:15 25th July

We have arrived safe and sound to Calais and have boarded the 8:50 Ferry. Journey was nice and easy, it's typically raining, so hope to be back soon!

Should be arriving back to U.K about 9:30 UK time.

Update 10:45 am (UK time)

We are back on terra firma and have wished our drivers well, as they have now swapped around. Huge thanks to Albert for his efforts with us all week! 

Next we have just had our own Ardeche awards ceremony, with everyone being awarded. Awards included 'most wally nominations', 'most impressive capsize' and 'trip mum'.

So throughout the trip 'High School Musical', has been voted down, so now to a marathon of 3 films as we reach ever closer to Worcester. Expected eta to be confirmed but we are still on track for 3pm..

I have also corrected the numerous spelling mistakes, which were I promise the result of trying to type while I could have access to the Internet!!

Update 13:15

So we have had lunch at the services and are absolutely progressing well.

ETA to RGS is now 15:00!!

Time for some feedback from the pupils, some sharing their most humourous experiences...

Amelia L ""This has been the best trip that I have ever been on, it has been super, with many highlights from jumping off high rocks and canoeing down the magnificent Ardeche river to awesome fun water sports and much more team activities at Mimosa not to forget the great day out at Aqualand, water park. One of my favourite parts at Ardeche has to have been Bivouacing in the middle of our Ardeche decent, because this brought us all so much closer (literally we were sleeping on top of each other! Lol) and we got to know each other so much better this was all because it was raining for ages and we were sleeping in puddles, working together as a group to try and keep dry! It was not the most pleasant whilst we were there in the wet, but looking back now it was a really fun and a great, rare experience! For me Mimosa has to have been the best place to stay. We all loved going down to the beach everyday, doing activities, chilling out and playing games on the beach and swimming in the sea! Everyone was great company including the teachers and we all got to know everyone else so much better than we did before we came. Thank you to all the teachers for making this trip happen! #Besttripever! Thank you!"

😃 thank you Amelia!!

Abbie W "I loved getting to know people better and talking to people I don't know very well"

James P "The best bits were being with your mates 24/7, and the cold showers"

🤣 (I totally understand James, the weather was very hot!)

Ollie "I enjoyed the banana boats, canoeing and the Rapids"

Jack RC "It was fun"

Harvey B "Never fall off a banana boat headfirst!"

Jaden "It was narly bro"

Mrs M "The canoeing was the best part for me. Miss Cull and I have managed to descend the river for 2 trips without capsizing!" 

Matt P "It was good in parts and great in others, catamarans were the best"

Mia B "one of the funniest experiences of my life, I learnt lots of new things like I can survive a night in the rain with no cover. Plus the banana boat was insane"

Molly E "When your teachers seem like friends, you know you're on holiday"

Grace B "The bus journey in was great. The bivouac de gaud was very wet and camping in tents was AMAZING. We grew closer together in the camp"

Josh O "it was a great trip, I had lots of fun and I have done things I didn't know I could do, like rock jumping, and had an outstanding experience with my friends"

Freddie G "When we got woken up by the rain at 2 am, then we didn't sleep after that!!"

Olivia O "Every single day was an amazing adventure, I got closer with my friends and honestly had the best time"

Lucy N "When everyone freaked out about the huge spiders in the tents" (don't worry reader, it was all fine)!

Izzy P "I really enjoyed the banana boat (I fell off a few times). The catamaran sailing was awesome, I absolutely love Mimosa."

Maddie S "The banana boat was great fun!"

Grace R "When we were at bivouac and we were all lying in puddles"

Mia A "France has been sick, such a great experience. We definitely got closer after being squashed and sleeping non top of several people in the bivy "

Ben R "I liked he Ardeche because I got to do things that I never thought I could do and meet amazing new people"

Olivia R "Kim and Bryher made us capsize, we lost shoes and sunglasses and nearly died (we had life jackets on though), but it was fun"

Molly O "I fell in a bin!!!"

😁 Molly has been awarded the most wally nominations during the trip!!

Maddy M "I enjoyed meeting new people and speaking French. The discos were great!"

Kim W "Evenings were great as we got to meet new people at the disco and ply some games, I liked the Cube"

Ben C "When Freddie was buried alive in the sand when he was asleep"

Will R "Ben G heard we had a spider in our tent and he ran to the toilets quicker than ever"

Aaron L "Words can't describe how good it's been, I've enjoyed every moment"

Kathryn S "I now know that everyone thinks I'm mum, it's not as bad as I thought for a nickname"

Bryher H "The best trip ever!! Full of amazing activities and great people. We made lots of new friends in school. The banana boat was the best!"

Susannah W "I loved everything about this trip, it's probably one of the best trips I have ever been on! Also I loved how everyone got along and had so much fun"

Grace O "I feel like this trip has brought everyone closer. I loved the discos with all the dancing and socialising. I have definitely made new friends"

Ben G "My favourite part of the Ardeche trip was meeting new kids from other schools and socialising with them"

Tizzy "This trip was full of jokes and banter, especially when we were canoeing and Matt capsized his boat with him and Jack and the Instructor all inside"

Miss Cull "I love how much everyone made me laugh and I will miss everyone"

Special shout out goes to Miss C, who is leaving us and we thank her for all of her hard work over the past 3 expeditions. We will miss you too.